Edited by Young Jun Yang
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
The Taiwanese drama Someday or One Day got a Korean makeover. Even before its Netflix release, A Time Called You was already under the spotlight, given the enormous love the original had garnered not just in Taiwan but also in Korea. So, does A Time Called You live up to the hype?
Han Jun Hee (Jeon Yeo Been) is a woman trying to cope with the loss of her boyfriend, Gu Yeon Jun (Ahn Hyo Seop), in a plane crash a year ago. Her life takes a sudden turn when she receives a mysterious package containing a cassette tape and a Walkman. As she plugs in her earphones, the song “Gather My Tears” by Seo Ji Won plays, and the next thing she knows, she’s awake in a hospital room in 1998. Astoundingly, standing before her eyes is Yeon Jun, filled with concern. However, he calls her Kwon Min Ju and introduces himself as Nam Shi Heon. Confused but resolved to adapt, Jun Hee decides to go along with it, mainly because she’s with Yeon Jun—or at least someone she wants to believe is him.
Comparing a remake to its original is inevitable, especially when the original has received high praise—the standards naturally become stricter. In this respect, A Time Called You was shouldering a considerable burden right from the start. After all, Someday or One Day is considered a “legendary Taiwanese romance drama.”
To cut to the chase, it’s difficult to see A Time Called You as a successful remake. However, that’s only when comparing it to the original. For those who haven’t seen the original, this time-loop romance series offers a range of charms.
First of all, what’s worth noting is the intriguing twist to the conventional time-loop trope. Usually, characters travel back in time to their younger selves to resolve conflicts. However, in this story, Han Jun Hee and Kwon Min Ju look the same but are completely different people, even in terms of personality. The drama skillfully unfolds various storylines from the question, “Why did 36-year-old Han Jun Hee wake up in the body of 18-year-old Kwon Min Ju in 1998?” This nuanced take brings an additional layer of excitement to the time-loop genre and even a sense of gratification when complex timelines eventually make sense.
The cast delivers exemplary performances that add vitality to the show. Jeon Yeo Been masterfully portrays two characters with different shades, showcasing her wide acting range. As Min Ju, she embodies the “introverted teenage girl who has a crush,” and as Jun Hee, she evokes a sense of loss and emptiness that resonates deeply with the viewer. Particularly in the scenes where her emotions explode in the latter half, one can’t help but feel overwhelmed by her performance. Ahn Hyo Seop also impressively captures the character of Si Heon, who gradually falls for Min Ju (who is now Jun Hee). And his portrayal of Yeon Jun, who always sticks by Jun Hee’s side, tugs at the viewer’s heartstrings. Kang Hoon‘s portrayal of Jeong In Gyu, caught between love and friendship, is equally memorable.
The soundtrack adds a colorful layer to the drama. Seo Ji Won’s “Gather My Tears” serves as an emotional linchpin for Seo Jin Won’s affectionate feelings and evokes nostalgia for the late ’90s. Artists like NewJeans and MeloMance delight the ears by remaking classic songs such as “Beautiful Restriction,” “Never Ending Story,” and “Already One Year.”
However, there’s one big letdown. The so-called “20th-century vibe” just isn’t there. While the visuals and direction are impressive, and the music is good, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the characters don’t fully embody life in 1998 due to a lack of details. Perhaps it’s the too-cleanness, the modern school building, or the characters’ “2023 makeup.” Then there’s the “long-haired Nam Shi Heon,” which has certainly been a shock for many. While it’s jarring even without comparing it to the original, considering the rough times the character has been through, we can chalk it up to a matter of personal taste.
In conclusion, A Time Called You may not fully satisfy fans of Someday or One Day, but if you’re in for a charming and unique time-travel romance, give it a watch. You might find yourself humming “Gather My Tears” before you know it. And once you’ve binged the series, diving into the original can offer its own set of thrills. As much as I’ve fallen for Jeon Yeo Been and Ahn Hyo Seop, I just can’t get over Greg Hsu and Alice Ko. (7/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.